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      Philadelphia Speakers Series

      An Evening With Former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak

      Justin Jackson, political science, ’17

      Philadelphia Speakers Series

      Former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak greets senior political science major Justin Jackson at the Philadelphia Speakers Series presented by Widener University.

      Walking up the notable curved staircase that leads pedestrians to the doorstep of Philadelphia's historic and prestigious Union League, what I had mentally prepared myself for in advance was actually coming to pass. Though I had been inside of the private club on previous occasions, this time I entered with feelings of excitement and nervousness as I was about to meet former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, the October lecturer in the Philadelphia Speakers Series presented by Widener University.

      An Intimate Conversation

      Once inside, the anxiety that nearly overcame me quickly diminished. Charming and personable, former Prime Minister Barak took time to recognize me, my classmate Torrey Burroughs and Dr. Gordon Henderson by shaking our hands and showing genuine interest and pleasure in our presence.

      As an invited guest to the dinner preceding Barak's Philadelphia Speakers Series Kimmel Center appearance, I had the opportunity to sit in an intimate, open-circle fashion with the esteemed speaker, Widener President Julie E. Wollman, and many other respected guests. Former Prime Minister Barak fielded our questions on a variety of topics, including his reflections on his experience as prime minster, his thoughts on current events occurring in Israel and even the upcoming U.S. presidential election. He provided unfiltered, honest answers. While I will respect the privacy of that setting, I will disclose that sitting only three seats away from a world leader, engaged in meaty discussions about world politics, was a life-changing experience for this political science student.

      A Lecture on Pressing Global Issues

      Later that evening at the Kimmel Center, Barak further elaborated on some of the subjects he touched on at the Union League. Three of his statements left an impression on me, causing me to view the world through a new lens.

      First, as a resident of the Middle East, Barak's view of ISIS differs from that held by many Americans. He bluntly stated that ISIS is not a serious, credible threat; rather, members are very successful at inducing fear, largely evident through their effective use of social media to spread their ideals.

      Second, Barak discussed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He classified him not as a villain, but more as a strong-willed man who ultimately wants the best for his country. Reflecting on those two statements alone, it reminded me to always consider perspectives other than my own, whether it is a social or political matter.

      Finally, Barak shared with the audience a message he learned early in his life: "The greatest risk is being unable to take one." His shared wisdom means to me that in life you will have to take risks, take leaps of faith and step out on courage. If you fail to take one step forward, you will only remain in one place.

      Coming Up

      Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno will take the stage next at the Philadelphia Speakers Series on Monday, Nov. 21.


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